Coronavirus-Related Immigration Law Changes
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is seemingly everywhere, and the shutdowns and lockdowns that the disease is causing raise problems in the world of immigration. Immigration laws and policies are being announced that affect applicants, individuals and businesses that are under time constraints to provide immigration documentation.
What To Do With Denied Visa Applicants?
Normally, if a visa petition is denied, the applicant is supposed to go home, or be sent home by an employer if the applicant is working under an H-1B visa. The problem is that it has become near impossible to get flights to many countries given the numerous travel bans that are in effect.
That leaves many applicants with no choice but to stay where they are, forcing them to violate immigration laws.
There have been some calls for Congress to fix the problem—such as allowing people who were here legally, had a Visa expire, and then refile—to remain in the country, especially if they would be sent to a country where the COVID-19 virus is widespread. Other proposals have suggested having temporary periods where people can remain in the US after their Visa expires.
Some good news for both employers of those here on work related visas and for the visa holders is that in most cases, the change from working in an office to home-based, remote work, will not affect the visa, and in many cases an amended visa petition will not be required.
Even during a crisis, student visas must be maintained. However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has indicated that it intends to be “flexible” in its enforcement this year because of COVID-19.
Businesses may have limited access to records, and thus may have a difficult time complying with inspection requests by ICE. Additionally, businesses may have a difficult time reviewing documents provided to them by their own employees, that are needed to verify the employees’ immigration status.
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have announced that documents can be inspected remotely (assuming the business has been altered to where employees are working remotely), through video links or email, and that inspections of the documents can happen within three business days from the first day the employee begins working. When and if normal business resumes, the employer will have 3 business days to do a physical inspection of the employees’ original documents. Employers can list COVID-19 as the reason for any delay in inspection.
DHS has also said that delays will be considered on a case by case basis, in situations where quarantines or lockdowns make meeting deadlines impossible.
Notices of Inspection
DHS has announced that if a business was served with a notice of inspection in March 2020, and the business has not responded, there will be an automatic 60 day extension for the business to comply.
Immigration laws and policies are constantly changing. Contact the Palm Beach County immigration attorneys at Devore Law Group to help you with your immigration questions whether you are an employee, or an employer business that hires immigrants.